Steeplechase riders are a notably tough lot. They “play through the pain” regularly, ignoring bumps and bruises that would send most pro athletes limping to the sidelines.
While there is an attending physician at each meet, the jockey colony has no ready team of full-time physical therapists or team doctors as in the NFL.
For cricks and cracks, they’re pretty much on their own.
Fortunately for the Virginia circuit, help is available if you know where to look.
Winner of Saturday’s featured open timber at Old Dominion, Endless Mountain has long had a winning team behind him in owner David Semmes, who was a winning jockey in his day, trainer Dot Smithwick, and rider Ben Garner, who leads the novice rider division.
Add Dr. Carl Hutton to the winning formula.
When Garner took a spill with Say Hallelujah at Orange County last week, he knew he wasn’t injured, but he “could barely move my neck,” the 26-year-old English apprentice said. “Everybody told me to go see Dr. Hutton.”
Garner trotted over to the Marshall chiropractor, a favorite among working horsemen.
“It was the trapezius muscle,” Garner explained, the one that runs from the base of the skull to the middle of the back and around the shoulder. “Dr. Hutton just gave me a massage, and a few adjustments — crack, crack, crack, and some Icy Hot stuff, and I was good to go.”
At the April 3 Old Dominion Hounds Point-to-Point, Garner showed no signs of stiffness handling Endless Mountain to claim his second straight Leeds Don open timber feature.
In the three-mile headliner, Endless Mountain raced with Across The Sky early, fencing well and handling the slightly soft Ben Venue Farm course.
Endless Mountain actually crossed the wire second behind Across The Sky, but was declared the race winner due to a technicality.
Across The Sky, ridden by Fritz Boniface, and More Fascination (Willie Dowling) were allowed to run as unofficial starters after being allowed to enter the race after entries closed.
Endless Mountain has proven durable in six years on the circuit, winning seven races on the turf, over hurdles and over timber for six different riders.
Garner, who said he did not push Endless Mountain, also won aboard James Piper’s Two Ticks.
In hurdle action at Old Dominion, Julia Thieriot’s Fantastic Foe looked impressive in winning the two-mile open hurdle.
Handled by Liam McVicar for trainer Mairead Carr, the enormous Maryland-bred 6-year-old raced off the pace until moving to the lead into the final circuit and was never threatened when winning by more than a dozen lengths.
Fantastic Foe raced for leading trainer Jeff Runco at Charles Town, but being big, the gelding had difficulty negotiating the 3/4-mile West Virginia track.
Carr first raced the horse over hurdles last fall, winning his point-to-point prep at Thornton Hill. Old Dominion was Fantastic Foe’s first 2010 start.
Carr also saddled her own Triton Light to win the maiden hurdle.
Gregg Ryan rode his own Devil’s Preacher to win the amateur hurdle in what he said would be his last race following a legendary 30-year steeplechase career.
It was one of two winners for Middleburg trainer Julie Gomena, who also sent out novice turf winner Country Cousin.
In the day’s other races, upper level event rider Natalie Wales handled her first race winner, her own Pizarro in the ladies’ timber.
Owner-rider Pat Cooney kept his Crypto Cousin tucked in early behind leader Cool Fellow in the three-mile series timber before winning by seven furlongs. Cool Fellow jumped the last hurdle awkwardly and lost rider Ken Shreve. Neither horse nor rider was injured.
Elsewhere on the ‘chase circuit, Virginia’s current leading rider Jeff Murphy won twice at the Stoneybrook meet in North Carolina.
He rode Ptarmigan to victory in the maiden hurdle for trainer Doug Fout, and he steered Liverpool Gloves to win the maiden claimer for owner-trainer Teddy Mulligan.